Kantor and Twohey are often introduced in long shot or medium shot and surrounded by other women — perhaps because harassment and assault might happen to any woman, because any woman might want to make them right. In one scene, which doesn’t seem drawn from the book, a man at a bar makes a pass at Twohey, reacting bitterly when she shuts him down. But “She Said” doesn’t style itself as a manifesto. In place of firebrand feminism, the film emphasizes decency, perspicacity and rigor.
This cool, efficient touch is felt throughout. In the movie’s most affecting scene, Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton), a former Miramax employee, speaks to Kantor when even an off-the-record conversation risked violating her nondisclosure agreement. Seated in a London cafe, Perkins details what she witnessed. Her voice is even, her gestures are few. It’s devastating.
The central performances echo this restraint. Mulligan makes Twohey a touch steelier than Kazan’s more demonstrative Kantor. But neither actress leans into mannerism or quirk; neither showboats.
Fans of “All the President’s Men” might find themselves wishing for something zingier — the tang of conspiracy, say, more trench coats and shadowed parking garages. But the film’s few missteps occur when it tilts toward drama, in scenes that show younger versions of their sources. Reporters have only their informants’ words and what documents they can unearth. They don’t have access to their memories. The flashbacks give space and weight to what the accusers endured. They are never salacious. But for the camera to go where a reporter can’t feels like a wrong direction.
Weinstein appears in the film only glancingly. His recorded voice is heard, and in a late scene the back of his head (well, the back of the actor Mike Houston’s head) can be seen. The focus, rightly, remains with his accusers and the reporters who convinced them to go on record, together, so that the usual responses and denials — she’s crazy, she’s confused, she’s vindictive, she wanted it, too — lacked force. Women were believed, at least long enough that their stories could be investigated and corroborated.
“She Said” details a triumph of journalistic sympathy and precision. What will become of the real-world movement this reporting kindled? The jury’s still out.
Alexis Soloski is a contributing writer to The Times and The Guardian. Her debut novel, “Here in the Dark,” is forthcoming from Flatiron Books next year.
Rated R for language, implied sexual violence and patriarchal horrors. Running time: 2 hours 8 minutes. In theaters.
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